Friday, August 29, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 9-4-08
Jeff Gill

Who Belongs Here, Anyhow?

Having been a PTA president (before moving to Brigadoon), I may be too easily cheered by this prospect, but I hear folks say Sarah Palin hasn’t faced tough enough challenges in politics and negotiations to be McCain’s veep.

PTA to city council to mayor to governor to . . . all I can say is, if she faced down Murkowski and Stevens (Obama voted for the Bridge to Nowhere, Palin vetoed it), and she survived the brutality of school and civic politics, I’m thinking . . . put it this way: I think more people in the State Department would benefit from having run a village council campaign or sat through a couple of zoning appeals.

The civil affairs officers in Iraq have said much the same.

No matter what happens in 60 days, we will have a senior administration official from either the 50th or 49th state, Barack Obama from Hawaii and Sarah Palin from Alaska. John McCain is from the 48th state of Arizona, and Joe Biden from the 1st, as the senator from Delaware likes to say with Constitutional accuracy.

That’s a fun fact, as is the almost unremarkable point that none were born in their now “home state” except for Obama; Barack’s choice of Illinois for his professional life is meaningful on so many levels, as we move into the bicentennial year of Lincoln’s birth . . . in 1809 Kentucky, and by way of Indiana to Illinois at 21.

We move around in this country, more so now than even in 1830 but it was more common then than you might think. Here in Granville we have a solid substrate of lifelong residents, and a thick overlay of migrants and immigrants and move-ins from neighboring states (like us’ns from Indiana) and even far off countries.

The college on the hill now has about 22% of her student body self-identified as multicultural, so Denison looks much more like the country as a whole than does the village. We are used to academic visitors in Brigadoon, but we don’t always see them as “part of the community.” Actually, student volunteers do amazing work around Licking County to help autistic children, do research for staff at homelessness and housing agencies, read to schoolkids, build Habitat houses, register voters (R as well as D, plus I), and make trails or pick up litter along them.

So who is a Granville resident? Legally, we have certain definitions, with modifications for the school district, who gets municipal services, and who has to live under village ordinances.

Personally, some folks feel like they aren’t residents, or aren’t . . . and this is where it gets tricky. It’s a look when you say a certain street address (or perceived look), an assumption about “587” on a form that has to be crossed out for some other exchange, it’s what you didn’t know that “everyone knows.”

I tend to feel welcome pretty much wherever, but the fact is that some folks are more at ease in new environments than others. Call it a personality quirk. Like many quirks, we have plenty of quirkers who feel quirkly in Our Fayre Village.

How do we want to welcome and include new residents into this bubble of real reality called Granville? Where can people learn the folkways and foibles and “everybody knows” of this place?

Reading the Sentinel is one way (especially the OpEd pages), and the Great Picnic was and will continue to be an incredibly valuable community-building tool. The barriers to entry are low (sign up at village hall or just show up and wander around), and the benefits are high (food, and dancing among the straw bales to La-Z-Boy and the Recliners).

What other ways do you and your neighbors and associations help people “feel at home” here in Brigadoon? Remember, you never know when the fog will set in again and suddenly a hundred years have passed us by . . .

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about places you see time stop around Granville at

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